Children at cookie table in 1975.
Visiting the cookie table at the Children’s Christmas Party, 1975.

Tales from the Archives: Children's Christmas Party

Ann Kenne, head of special collections and archivist at St. Thomas, shares the history of the Children's Christmas Party in this Tales from the Archives piece.

Santa Claus has been making an annual visit to the St. Thomas campus to visit the children and grandchildren of faculty and staff at the annual Children’s Christmas Party for over 70 years. The St. Thomas Women’s Auxiliary hosted the first party on Dec. 11, 1949, which was attended by over 100 children. Held in the upper level of the Grill (one of the war surplus buildings that had been temporarily constructed on campus), the event featured food, games, carol singing and a visit from Santa Claus, who brought a gift for each child.

The Children’s Christmas Party was such a big hit that it moved to increasing larger venues through the years – first to the O’Shaughnessy Hall lounge and then Murray Hall lounge. Then, with the expansion in the number of employees of St. Thomas, the party was moved to Coughlan Field House, where over 600 children could be accommodated at the event.

A child visiting with Santa Claus, 1975.

While a visit from St. Nicholas (played by several different staff members including Leonard Hauser and Joe Flood) has always been the highlight, the Children’s Christmas Party has featured a number of different activities in its history. Screenings of cartoons or children’s movies, visits by clowns or magicians, and a variety of games (like pin the hat on Santa) are just some of the amusements which have been offered.